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Erik

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PostSubject: Goethe's Concept of the Daemonic: After the Ancients   Mon Jan 19, 2015 4:22 pm

This thread is going to be about a philosophical text on the concept of the daemonic. The title of the text is Goethe's concept of the Daemonic: After the Ancients by Angus Nicholls. It's an excellent book, because it's not merely about Goethe's concept of the daemon, but pretty much the entire history of it. The concept of the daemon originated in ancient Greece. It's a nuanced philosophical/religious concept, but I believe it's safe to say that, in general, it is defined as a spiritual mediator or sensibility between two realities, e.g., the divine realm and the Earthly realm. I will put in entries of passages from the text and a link to a free E-book download of it, below.


Goethe's Concept of the Daemonic: After the Ancients

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PostSubject: Re: Goethe's Concept of the Daemonic: After the Ancients   Mon Jan 19, 2015 4:23 pm

Quote :
“The idea of the daemonic,” wrote Walter Benjamin,
“accompanies Goethe’s vision all his life.” For Plato, the
daemonic is a sensibility that brings individuals into contact
with divine knowledge. Socrates also relied upon a
“divine voice” known as his “daimonion,” which inspired
him in situations where his rational methods had reached
an impasse, thereby showing the limitations of reason itself.
Goethe was introduced to this ancient concept of the
daemon by Hamann and Herder, who associated nonrational,
daemonic inspiration with an aesthetic category
of central importance to early German Romanticism: that
of “Genius.” Angus Nicholls’s book shows how the young
Goethe initially depicted the idea of daemonic genius in
works of the Storm and Stress period, before exploring the
daemonic in a series of later poetic and autobiographical
works. Reading Goethe’s works on the daemonic through
theorists such as Lukács, Benjamin, Gadamer, Adorno,
and Blumenberg, Nicholls contends that they contain
philosophical arguments concerning reason, nature, and
subjectivity that are central to both European Romanticism
and the Enlightenment. This is the first book to examine
Goethe’s writings on the daemonic in relation to
both Classical philosophy and German idealism.

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PostSubject: Re: Goethe's Concept of the Daemonic: After the Ancients   Mon Jan 19, 2015 4:24 pm

Quote :
In ancient Greek thought, daemons were seen as intermediaries between
the world of the divine and the material world, and Plato would
also have been aware of the conception of the philosopher as a daemon or
intermediary between the secular and the divine. This idea is present only
fifty years or so before Plato’s birth in the thought of Empedocles.
Empedocles’ notion of the daemon as an exile who has been banished
from the kingdom of the gods is presented in fragment 107 of the
Katharmoi, often called “The Decree of Necessity”:

There is a decree of necessity, ratified long ago by gods, eternal and
sealed by broad oaths, that whenever one in error, from fear, (defiles)
his own limbs, having by his error made false the oath he
swore — daimons to whom life long-lasting is apportioned — he
wanders from the blessed ones for three times countless years, being
born throughout the time as all kinds of mortal forms, exchanging
one hard way of life for another. For the force of air pursues him
into the sea, and sea spits him out onto earth’s surface, earth casts
him into rays of blazing sun, and sun into the eddies of air; one takes
There is a decree of necessity, ratified long ago by gods, eternal and
sealed by broad oaths, that whenever one in error, from fear, (defiles)
his own limbs, having by his error made false the oath he
swore — daimons to whom life long-lasting is apportioned — he
wanders from the blessed ones for three times countless years, being
born throughout the time as all kinds of mortal forms, exchanging
one hard way of life for another. For the force of air pursues him
into the sea, and sea spits him out onto earth’s surface, earth casts
him into rays of blazing sun, and sun into the eddies of air; one takeshim from another, and all abhor him. I too am one of these, an exile
from the gods and a wanderer, having put my trust in raving strife.14


The daemon is cast out of heaven as a result of committing the sin of
bloodshed (defilement of the limbs), which is viewed as an act that produces
a pollution of the divine part of the soul. This act also constitutes a
transgression of the bond or oath imposed upon the daemon by Love,
and accordingly he becomes subject to miasma: a kind of infection of the
soul that separates him from his divine counterparts and begins the cycle
of his existence on earth in different incarnations of mortal life.15 The
daemon is then presented with the task of reunifying himself with the
gods, as this will represent his redemption. Thus, as M. R. Wright observes
in his commentary on the Katharmoi, “to be forced from the company
of his fellows for a time of exile, and eventually to return to them, is
basic to Empedocles’ theory of the daimon.”

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PostSubject: Re: Goethe's Concept of the Daemonic: After the Ancients   Mon Jan 19, 2015 4:29 pm

Quote :
The daemon’s fate is produced by a
necessity that can only be described as an indeterminate or unknowable
cause. In this way, Empedocles gives a name to that which is unknowable
and incalculable. There is, moreover, no sense in which the daemon’s
banishment can be accounted for in terms of the Christian psychology of
sin. The daemon has not sinned in the modern psychological sense of
freely and consciously choosing a particular course of action. Rather, as
M. R. Wright puts it, “although the daimon has come under the power of
Strife . . . this need not imply wrong intention or power of choice on the
part of the daimon.”17 For Empedocles, and for other pre-Socratics like
Heraclitus, character was an objective and not a subjective phenomenon.
As is seen in the example of Empedocles’ daemon, one’s character is not
really a matter of choice or subjective will; rather, human acts are seen to
flow from an external, divine agency associated with necessity.18
Accordingly, when Heraclitus states in fragment 119 that “a person’s
character is his daemon,” the term daemon may mean either one’s fate or
one’s guardian divinity.19 In his commentary on fragment 119, T. M.
Robinson argues that the fragment may in fact carry both meanings.
Hence, on the one hand, a daemon may be the soul of a noble individual
who has died — a soul that will subsequently function as a guardian
divinity that protects another person during his or her life, thereby influencing
his or her fate. On the other hand, however, the fragment may
also mean that the person’s own character, and not the soul of another
individual who has died, is their daemon. In this latter sense, according to
Robinson, “one’s own character is also one’s destiny (daemon)” and in
this sense one is completely responsible “for the daemon that is one’s
character.”20 This notion of responsibility is, however, definitely not to be
equated with modern notions concerning the consequences that arise
from the actions of free and autonomous agents. As Charles H. Kahn
observes, Heraclitus identified the individual character with the elemental
powers and constituents of the cosmos. It is these elemental powers, as
opposed to the individual’s freedom and autonomy, that “constitute the
physical explanation or psychophysical identity of the particular life in
question, the elemental equivalent of a given moral and intellectual
character.”21
Similarly, the catastrophic split between the forms and the physical
world depicted by Plato in Timaeus should not be confused with the
Christian Fall. Although, as Ronna Burger points out, the Platonic split
does have something in common with original sin, in the sense that all
humans are born fallen and “in ignorance of the truth,” the split cannot
be said to have occurred as the result of sin in the Christian sense. Rather,
it occurs simply because it was not possible to bring beings based upon
the forms into existence without making them temporal and corporeal.22
The temporal world is fallen, but not in any moral or psychological way:
rather, its fallen-ness is its necessity, as the act of creation in Plato is necessarily
an act of division.
With regard to the fates of individuals, the Platonic daemon is likewise
connected with the notion of necessity, although the idea of sin re-
ceives a stronger treatment in Plato than it does in Empedocles. In the
“Myth of Er” section of The Republic (614b–621d) Plato, through the
character of Er, gives an account of the transmigration of souls similar to
that found in Empedocles’ “Decree of Necessity.” Er, having died in
battle, encounters the “other world” in which souls are allotted their
fates, and then returns to life to tell of his experiences. Er has been
appointed by the judges of the other world as a messenger charged with
reporting to earthly men the events that take place there. He refers to
this other world as a topos daimonios (daemonic place, 614c) as it is here
that souls are required to choose their fates or lots for the next life. The
lots are distributed by Lachesis, the daughter of necessity, and they include
both animal and human forms of life. Each soul may choose its
respective lot, but this choice is soon forgotten, as the souls proceed to
the forgetful river at Lethe and, after drinking their fill, they forget all of
their experiences in the daemonic world, subsequently returning to life
ignorant of their choice of lot. Thus, although Plato implies that each
soul chooses its lot and is therefore responsible for this choice, in the trajectory
of life itself the choice of lots is forgotten, and life appears to be
governed by necessity.
What does Plato mean by calling this other world a daemonic place?
Here daemonic can mean both “of necessity” and “of divination” or
“mantic.” In Heraclitus’s sense of the daemon as the nexus between character
and fate, the world experienced by Er is one in which souls are once
more fated (that is, given a lot) for their next incarnation. This interpretation
also accords with the etymological origin of daemonic in the word
daio, which refers to the division and distribution of divine gifts by the
gods.23 Er’s role as an intermediary or courier who brings news of the
hidden world is also daemonic in the mantic or divinatory sense. The experiences
that he reports take place in an intermediate, transitional world
suspended between life and death, and he himself is something like the
living dead, having mysteriously arisen from his own funeral pyre. Overwhelmingly,
however, the “Myth of Er” is a testament to the inexorable
and unfathomable workings of necessity. This is seen when Plato gives us
a detailed rendering, at 616b–c, of the “Spindle of Necessity” that revolves
upon a “straight light like a pillar . . . extended from above
throughout the heaven and the earth” (PCD, 840), demonstrating the
extent to which Plato’s version of the daemonic is literally a kind of
conduit or tube that transports divine or numinous information to the
physical realm.

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PostSubject: Re: Goethe's Concept of the Daemonic: After the Ancients   Mon Jan 19, 2015 4:40 pm

Quote :
What does Plato mean by calling this other world a daemonic place?
Here daemonic can mean both “of necessity” and “of divination” or
“mantic.” In Heraclitus’s sense of the daemon as the nexus between character
and fate, the world experienced by Er is one in which souls are once
more fated (that is, given a lot) for their next incarnation. This interpretation
also accords with the etymological origin of daemonic in the word
daio, which refers to the division and distribution of divine gifts by the
gods. Er’s role as an intermediary or courier who brings news of the
hidden world is also daemonic in the mantic or divinatory sense. The experiences
that he reports take place in an intermediate, transitional world
suspended between life and death, and he himself is something like the
living dead, having mysteriously arisen from his own funeral pyre. Overwhelmingly,
however, the “Myth of Er” is a testament to the inexorable
and unfathomable workings of necessity. This is seen when Plato gives us
a detailed rendering, at 616b–c, of the “Spindle of Necessity” that revolves
upon a “straight light like a pillar . . . extended from above
throughout the heaven and the earth” (PCD, 840), demonstrating the
extent to which Plato’s version of the daemonic is literally a kind of
conduit or tube that transports divine or numinous information to the
physical realm.

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PostSubject: Re: Goethe's Concept of the Daemonic: After the Ancients   Mon Jan 19, 2015 4:42 pm

Anamnesis:
Quote :
Although the concept of anamnesis is given its most detailed philosophical
treatments in the Meno and the Phaedo, it is in the Phaedrus that Plato
endeavors to present this concept by way of a mythical narrative that displays
some similarities with the account of the soul found in the “Myth of
Er.” All souls, says Socrates in the Phaedrus, were originally winged and
beheld true Being before descending to the material world. Once they
have fallen, most souls forget their previous divine existence. This forgetting
may be attributable to what Plato says about the “forgetful river” at
Lethe, or it may generally be associated with the soul’s contamination by
things evil and foul, which cause the soul’s wings to wither and die, as the
soul’s loss of its wings is concomitant with the forgetting of the forms
(246e). To complicate matters further still, Socrates also suggests later in
the dialogue (at 248c) that the soul’s falling to earth may merely be the
result of an accident or malignant necessity. Having lost its wings and
fallen to earth, where it is forced to dwell in the secondary and derivative
world of matter, the soul is faced with the task of regrowing its wings and
returning to its former divine status.
The capacity to recollect the soul’s previous divine existence is, according
to Socrates, most often found in philosophers. At 249b–c of the
Phaedrus, it is revealed that the philosopher is gifted in this particular area
because he is able to move

from a plurality of perceptions to a unity gathered together by reasoning
— and such understanding is a recollection of those things
which our souls beheld aforetime as they journeyed with their god,
looking down upon the things which now we suppose to be, and
gazing up to that which truly is. (PCD, 496)

On one level, anamnesis is associated with reason. Plato sees the dialectical
mode of the Socratic dialogue as a kind of path that leads from particular
instances back to the universal forms. In another sense, however,
anamnesis can be a fundamentally non-rational state of possession. Socrates
argues that in some cases the process of anamnesis takes place as a result
of the subject’s contemplating those aspects of the material world
that, in their beauty and goodness, remind him of the transcendent realm
from which his soul originally emanated. In effect, Socrates contends that
anamnesis may be facilitated by focusing upon the beauty inherent in a
love-object. This, it is explained at 249e, occurs when a man

as soon as he beholds the beauty of this world, is reminded of true
beauty, and his wings begin to grow; then is he fain to lift his wingsand fly upward;
yet he has not the power, but inasmuch as he gazes
upward like a bird, and cares nothing for the world beneath, men
charge it upon him that he is demented. (PCD, 496)

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PostSubject: Re: Goethe's Concept of the Daemonic: After the Ancients   Mon Jan 19, 2015 4:46 pm

Diotima and the Daemon:
Quote :
Diotima’s speech and that of Aristophanes operate on different
levels. While Aristophanes’ discourse on the origin of love functions as a
kind of comic interlude in the Symposium — albeit a comic interlude that
gives a mythic representation of some of the key features of Plato’s notions
of love as eros — the speech of Diotima is intended to be taken far
more seriously. Socrates tells us that Diotima is a wise woman, and that
he has learnt much from her.
At 199c–201c of the Symposium, prior to Diotima’s speech, Socrates
discusses the nature of love with Agathon. In order to refute Agathon’s
assumption that love is to be equated with the beautiful, Socrates points
out that love must be love of something, and that this something is the
beautiful. Socrates then goes on to argue that because love is the desire
for the beautiful, and given that one who desires always desires that which
he lacks, then love itself is not beautiful. Love and desire are thus defined
by Socrates in terms of a lack, and more specifically, as a lack of beauty
and goodness. It is at this point that Socrates introduces Diotima’s
speech. In response to Socrates’ statement that love is a great god,
Diotima argues that love cannot be a god because love desires, and therefore
lacks, that which the gods possess: beauty and goodness. Love (eros)
says Diotima at 202d–203a, is:

A very powerful daimon . . . and daimons, you know, are half-way
between god and man. . . . They are the envoys and interpreters that
ply between heaven and earth, flying upward with our worship and
our prayers, and descending with the heavenly answers and commandments
. . . the man who is versed in such matters is said to have
daemonic powers [sophos daimonios], as opposed to the mechanical
powers of the man who is an expert in the more mundane arts.
There are many daimons, and many kinds of daimon, too, and Love
is one of them. (PCD, 555)

Quote :
Diotima’s contention is that the daemon corresponds with a state of lack
or non-consummation. The daemon — embodied in this case in the concept
of eros — is that which strives to be god-like, but due to the fact
that it must always lack that for which it strives, the daemon is forever the
less-than-god or almost-god. This sense of lack resonates with the fact
that according to Diotima love’s mother is Penia: the goddess of poverty.
But what does this notion of love as daemonic have to do with
Plato’s ontology, and with his conception of the philosopher? The answer
to this question is that for Plato, the philosopher is always in a state of
lack, of less than complete knowledge, precisely because he is not a god.
As Diotima explains to Socrates at 204a–b, gods are not philosophers because
they are already wise. It is only those who are intermediate between
knowledge and ignorance who can be called philosophers or lovers of
wisdom. In other words, philosophers, as intermediaries or daemons with
a desire to know the forms, can only ever be on the way. Any sense of
arrival must be false, since the forms are, at least for human purposes, like
a horizon that withdraws when approached: a destination without location
that always spurs the philosopher on to greater heights.

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PostSubject: Re: Goethe's Concept of the Daemonic: After the Ancients   Sat Feb 07, 2015 6:09 pm

Platonic Eros and Lukács’s Daemon:

Quote :
The significance of Platonic philosophical eros for the daemonic is
clear. Eros is associated with the non-rational, but the non-rational can be
used in a rational, philosophical way when we investigate it and begin
to understand its power. Our desires indicate to us something about
ourselves and the world that we inhabit. The drunken and intoxicated
Alcibiades, a man suffused with desire, reveals more about philosophical
eros than do any of the other speakers in the Symposium apart from Socrates
and Diotima. Alcibiades shows that the quickest way home, the
shortest way to the forms, is often provided by desire and intoxication,
provided that desire and intoxication can be retrospectively, and — to use
Ronna Burger’s terminology — “artfully” embraced and analyzed by
reason. As Kierkegaard also observes in his reading of the Symposium,
Alcibiades’ experience of love complements the more abstract speeches
given by the other speakers on the dialogue, in that his desire is the flesh
that covers and adorns the bones of dialectical reason, and as such it
exemplifies and fills out, renders substantial, the abstract notion of eros
outlined by Socrates and Diotima. The essence of Alcibiades’ speech is
the theme of reflection upon desire, upon longing. The deepest desire
buried in Platonic eros, in Platonic longing, is the desire to move from the
immanent into the transcendent. As an inheritor of Kierkegaard’s philosophical
tradition, and, by analogy, the tradition of Plato, the young
Georg Lukács, in his Theorie des Romans (1920) finds this eminently human
desire at the heart of the daemonic:

Es gibt eine wesenhafte Bestrebung der Seele, der es nur um das
Wesenhafte zu tun ist, einerlei woher es kommt, einerlei was seine
Ziele sind; es gibt eine Sehnsucht der Seele, wo der Heimatdrang so
heftig ist, daß die Seele den ersten Pfad, der heimzuführen scheint,
in blindem Ungestüm betreten muß.

Although Lukács’s definition of the daemonic is fundamentally different
from that of Plato in that its central concern is the triumph of subjectivity
over objectivity that announces itself in the modern novel, his
definition nevertheless concurs with Plato’s notion of the daemonic in the
following way: for Lukács, the longing associated with the daemonic is a
human response to “die Ferne und die Abwesenheit des wirkenden
Gottes.” In this way, Lukács’s definition of the daemonic is intimately
connected with metaphysical longing, a longing that is directed towards
an abstract, metaphysical home or origin not unlike Plato’s forms. It is
this idea that comes through even more forcefully in an earlier work by
Lukács — the essay “Sehnsucht und Form” (1910) — in which he defines
Socratic longing as a kind of eros that must remain forever “unerwidert”
precisely because its goal is metaphysical self-perfection rather than physical
consummation.

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